The Politics of the Bootleg

From: Lisa Oppenheim (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 10 2008 - 12:59:29 PDT

Okay. I rarely post about this stuff, but I feel the need to throw in
my two cents.

First of all, bootlegs have, will and will always exist.
And they serve a function, political, social, artistic.

No one watching "Zorn's Lemma" on youtube or Ubu is going to mistake
this for a cinematic experience. It is a reference. As are pictorial
documentations of other visual art works in newspapers, magazines,
blogs, flickr, etc. Is it possible or even desirable to go after
every art blog with pictures of my or any other artist's work, posted
without permission? I think not. After all, from an economic
perspective, anything that broadens an artist's 'market' is arguably
a good idea. Think about Grateful Dead bootlegs. Don't you think the
circulation of these tapes amongst white bourgeois suburban
'hippies' increased sales of tickets at Dead shows? And elevated, as
much as it makes me want throw up to write this, the cultural capital
of the band? So that their smelly offspring, such as Phish, could

    Perhaps all we experimental filmmakers , especially the Americans
in the house, have is the potential for cultural rather than economic
capital. We make the work because we think it is important. We are
interested in a historical trajectory that few, not even many people
in the art world, know or care about. But we can make it important by
sharing our arcane knowledges, histories and practices so that those
who did not go to the few universities where such histories and
practices are taught can know that this work even exists!

    Let me just write, that as a visual artist I am keenly aware
about the arguments about copyright and the like, and frankly, I hear
these arguments more from the corporate interests attached to the art
world claiming to speak on my behalf than from artists like me.
Because if we as artists had to account for every appropriated
image, every found footage clip, then both the art world and the
world of experimental cinema would suffer. There would be no Bruce
Conners, no Richard Princes, no Sherrie Levines.

    Copyright exists to protect corporations not artists. It seems
like an obvious point, but one that has been lost in this discussion.

Lisa Oppenheim

On Jun 10, 2008, at 3:11 PM, Jorge Amaro wrote:

> I'm sorry I dont want to be rude or anything, i fully agree with your
> post and attitute, but what kind of industry are you talking about
> exactly? Is there such thing as an industry involving experimental
> films? I'm not aware of any artist being able or was able to earn
> enough money to make ends meet just making films, am I wrong here? You
> could say it is bad for your business and for the 3 or 4 labels that
> dedicate themselves to release experimental films. But that is hardly
> an industry at all. Quoting Ken jacobs from some interview I do not
> remember anymore and probably not by these exact words: 'What I love
> in this, is no matter how famous you are, you are never able to make
> it your livelihood'.
> You can stop UBUWeb, take it down, but other places will appear.
> Bittorrent sites like The Pirate Bay are unstoppable even by Hollywood
> and the swedish police and the MPAA combined.
> Dont take this as an attack of any kind please, i'm just stating
> what I think.
> I'm not offering any solutions because that would be pedantic of me, i
> dont have any. While before the internt people swapped bootlegs under
> the table they now put it on the internet. And ubu just grabbes it of
> Emule and such places and puts it up there. They are not the people
> that made the copies, they just "found" them on the internet.
> Just my thoughts, please dont eat me alive.
> love,
> j.
> 2008/6/10 Joel S Bachar <email suppressed>:
>> Dear Frameworkers and Directors of the Board of UbuWeb:
>> We would like to address some serious concerns of ours and the
>> artists/labels/distributors we represent in regards to the
>> practices of
>> UbuWeb, and some of the opinions posted about it on this Listserv.
>> The recent threads have shifted to the quality of online viewing
>> which we
>> would not like to address here as this is another issue.
>> We feel that some of UbuWeb's practices are illegal and unethical
>> and we
>> intend to make every effort to protect our business and the
>> property of our
>> company and/or the artists and company's we represent should we
>> see such
>> practices occurring.
>> Let's begin by quoting a question direct from the UbuWeb's FAQ:
>> Q: "Can I use something posted on UbuWeb on my site, in a paper, in a
>> project, etc.?"
>> A: Sure. We post many things without permission; we also post many
>> with
>> things with permission. We therefore give you permission to take
>> what you
>> like even though in many cases, we have no received permission to
>> post it.
>> We went ahead and did it anyway. You should too.
>> Source:
>> It is unfathomable to us that the Board of Directors as well as
>> the various
>> Partners of UbuWeb, including the institutions that fund and
>> support this
>> website, find this an acceptable practice! This has nothing to do
>> with
>> Creative Commons or Copyleft or Fair Use - this is outright
>> infringement of
>> copyright and theft and this type of practice is a direct threat
>> to our
>> business and livelihood and thus the livelhood of the hundreds of
>> artists we
>> represent.
>> One direct example are the films of Maya Deren. We are the
>> exclusive North
>> American DVD distributor of her collected films and the film The
>> Divine
>> Horsemen, through an agreement with the label, Mystic Fire Video.
>> Mystic
>> Fire has been informed of this and is not in agreement with these
>> films
>> being made available on UbuWeb.
>> Other infractions have been found in relation to the short films
>> of Man Ray
>> and Un Chien Andalou. In all of these cases, these films are readily
>> available on DVD for reasonable prices - both for retail and
>> Educational
>> PPR. In addition our company as well as many other are spending
>> time, money
>> and resources to develop quality streaming solutions for these
>> important
>> films.
>> We agree with UbuWeb's lamentation that many works are only available
>> through distribution via prohibitive pricing but we do not agree
>> that the
>> answer is to simply flout the system. This ignores the fact that
>> many
>> distributors are adjusting the changing marketplace and other new
>> entrant
>> are developing new ways to do legal business.
>> We have every intention of doing a thorough search on an ongoing
>> basis of
>> UbuWeb for any film (s) that we distribute and we encourage others
>> to do so
>> and take the appropriate action - which is to have these films
>> taken off
>> unless proper permissions are given. In addition - the Presidents
>> of the
>> Universities where the UbuWeb Board Members work and their respective
>> General Counsels should be made aware of the practices their
>> faculty members
>> are supporting. The IRS should also be informed as the UbuWeb
>> Foundation
>> should have its 501 c 3 status revoked.
>> I guess this will earn us a nice spot on UbuWeb's self-righteous
>> Hall of
>> Shame. (Doctorow's light essay is about HIS decision to give HIS
>> work away
>> by the way...) Maybe you should get permission to give work away.
>> A lot of our time and energy and resources is spent researching
>> rights,
>> negotiating contracts, selling and marketing and promoting
>> filmmaker's works
>> and paying royalties. Most of the time this work is done in
>> consultation
>> with the rights holders. We are not getting rich off of this but
>> it is our
>> livelihood and we like to think that we are providing a service to
>> the
>> filmmakers and the industry.
>> We do not have the luxury of having a paid position and then
>> moonlight to
>> steal copyright protected material under the loose veil of
>> academia or worse
>> yet 501 c 3 status.
>> We assume the reactions to all this would be different if Ubu was
>> part of a
>> for-profit company like Google or owned by a company incorporated
>> in a state
>> that has lax copyright laws.
>> One Frameworker asked about UbuWeb:
>> "Does the economy of this kind of work mean ubuweb's "grab and post"
>> attitude is the only way such a comprehensive archive could come into
>> existence? "
>> Our answer:
>> Not necessarily - there are many movements afoot in the industry
>> which are
>> going in the direction of providing better and cheaper access for
>> all..whether it be by commercial or legitimate non-profit means.
>> Our guess
>> is that it will be a balance of private, public, and 501 c 3
>> concerns that
>> find some way to communicate.
>> But the continued weak reaction of our industry for illegal
>> activities would
>> make the case for this stronger as time goes by. Grab and post is
>> not an
>> "attitude" it is a self serving philosophy. New web technology
>> and changing
>> consumer, copyright owner's attitudes are changing and the day
>> will come
>> when a legal Ubu-web type entity will exist in harmony with all
>> interests..our company is working towards that goal.but when we see
>> companies like Ubuweb (with respectable board members??) walk all
>> over
>> artists and copryright holders whilst philosophizing - it makes
>> us wince.
>> Like them or not there are copyright laws in this country that equate
>> intellectual property to physical property.
>> If we could steal gasoline with impunity right now we would start
>> a very
>> successful airline - that would benefit society and stop us all
>> from having
>> to pay such outrageous prices for air travel and remedy terrible
>> service.
>> Next I will start stealing wheat. Then electricity.
>> We ask that UbuWeb's Board of Directors, content partners,
>> filmmakers and
>> all of you on Frameworks and in any media-making community begin
>> take a VERY
>> hard look at these practices and think twice about being involved
>> with them
>> and/or endorsing them in anyway.
>> UbuWeb Board of Directors:
>> Joel S. Bachar and Patrick Kwiatkowski, Founders of Microcinema
>> Int'l/Microcinema DVD
>> 1636 Bush Street, #2, San Francisco, CA 94109
>> (415) 447-9750
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.